One of the hardest parts of detox and post-acute withdrawal symptom is the struggle to sleep. It took me weeks to finally achieve a full night’s sleep, and trust me it felt like an achievement. The lack of sleep, and insomnia that accompanied it was a driving force for cravings I had during this phase of my recovery, so I feel like it’s important to share a few tips on overcoming this insomnia to get a night of good rest.
One of the things that worked the best for me was listening to music until I fell asleep, which gave my mind something to focus on other than the ridiculous thoughts I was having. I think any type of music would do the trick, but it was particularly important for me to actually listen, and focus on the music that was playing. It was nearly a form of meditation that allowed my mind to quiet down and sustain a focused thought for long enough to feel relaxed. Even a white noise machine, a guided meditation, or binary beats can do the trick because the important thing is to give your mind something to focus on other than itself.
Another thing that has been proven to work is limiting the use of your bed to only sleeping. When we get habituated to doing stimulating activities in our bed, like reading, trolling the internet, playing games, etc. then our brains subconsciously associate the location, of our beds, with stimulating activities. This habit has been shown to directly affect the ability to sleep easily. In this early phase of recovery, this can be an extremely useful way to help yourself fall asleep, and it’s incredibly easy to implement.
Speaking of stimulating activities, another thing that’s simple to apply in early recovery that helps you fall asleep is limiting “screen time” an hour before bed. Leading experts suggest that you don’t look at a bright screen at all (your phone, TV, etc.) within the last hour of being awake. These bright screens make it hard for your eyes to settle down while you’re lying there trying to fall asleep. I’d encourage everyone to try this put because I didn’t learn about this until much later in my recovery and I immediately noticed a difference in my eye’s ability to settle down. I’ve even encountered research that suggested people dim the lights, or minimize light stimulation all together in this last hour before bed.
I understand detox and withdrawal are awful in and of itself, and exercise may not be on many people’s mind that is in this state. But, it has been extensively researched and even proven, that exercise has a direct effect on a person’s ability to fall asleep. Different research suggests various times to work out, so I won’t be recommending any particular time here, but this suggestion seems so obvious and yet it’s so overlooked, and can be a huge advantage in helping a person who’s in post-acute withdrawal to fall asleep.
There are even vitamin supplements that have been proven to help, like 5HTP (which is in Turkey) and Melatonin. These OTC vitamins help decrease the time it takes for someone to fall asleep and can be very helpful in early recovery to help someone overcome insomnia caused by PAWS.
In conclusion, struggling to get to sleep in early recovery is both physically and psychologically challenging for those who go through it, and it should not be overlooked. I encourage those who are detoxing, in PAWS, or even will be at some point to utilize these few suggestions that are proven to help put someone to sleep. The point is that there are natural, and safe solutions to these problems, which should ultimately help prevent someone get through this “hump” without having to relapse.